A talented and intelligent British filmmaker of intense and often introspective relationship dramas, Michael Winterbottom has displayed a wide array of diverse film projects that ranged from neo-noir thrillers and political docudramas to gritty family melodramas and satirical comedies. After getting his start with Thames Television, Winterbottom made his feature debut with the lesbian-centric noir "Butterfly Kiss" (1995) before his ambitious take on Thomas Hardy's novel, "Jude" (1996). He earned considerable international acclaim for his searing war drama, "Welcome to Sarajevo" (1997), which unflinchingly depicted the horror of the brutal war in Yugoslavia. After the interesting, but little-seen revisionist Western, "The Claim" (2000), Winterbottom offered a restless kaleidoscope of images accompanied by a stellar soundtrack for "24 Hour Party People" (2002), which once again helped boost his international acclaim. Follow the highly controversial erotic drama, "9 Songs" (2005), which depicted graphic unsimulated sex onscreen, he steered star Angelina Jolie in one of her finest performances with "A Mighty Heart" (2007). By the time he directed Casey Affleck in "The Killer Inside Me" (2010), Winterbottom was considered to be one of the more artistically daring directors working in contemporary cinema.
Born on March 29, 1961 in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, Winterbottom attended Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School before moving on to study English at Oxford University. Following his graduation from Oxford, he began studying film in Bristol and London, after which he landed his first industry job in the cutting room at Thames Television. Winterbottom soon made the transition to director via two well-received documentaries, "Ingmar Bergman: The Magic Lantern" (Channel 4, 1988) and "Ingmar Bergman: The Director" (ITV, 1988), both of which profiled the revered Swedish filmmaker. He next formed a semi-regular working relationship with screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce when they joined forces for a couple of youth-oriented television comedy-dramas, beginning with "The Strangers" (1989), which received a BAFTA nomination for Best Educational Film. Winterbottom displayed early on his fondness for quirky personal projects that were at the same time whimsical and uncompromising, while featuring small casts engaged in class struggles. Still working for Thames Television, he directed the road picture "Under the Sun" (1991) and the acclaimed "Love Lies Bleeding" (BBC2, 1992).
Winterbottom did a good job helming installments of TV series, including the two-hour premiere of "Cracker: The Mad Woman in the Attic" (Granada, 1993), which aired in the United States on A&E in 1994, and the "Death at the Bar" episode for "The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries" (BBC/PBS, 1995). He had a major breakthrough, however, with his four-part serial, "Family" (BBC, 1994), an acclaimed study of a dysfunctional Irish working-class family written by Roddy Doyle. While that miniseries was in post-production, Winterbottom formed the production company, Revolution Films, with producer Andrew Eaton. Meanwhile, the director made his feature film debut with "Butterfly Kiss" (1995), an odd and disturbing dark comedy which mixed a road film with a lesbian love affair and a serial killing spree, which demonstrated his talent for handling actors as well as his preference for emotional extremes and flashy shock cuts. Winterbottom's stylish and often socially committed touch also showed in "Go Now" (1995), the director's poignant study of a multiple sclerosis victim (Robert Carlyle) and the indefatigable woman (Juliet Aubrey) who stays by his side.
A number of qualities which Winterbottom's work had manifested were present in his most ambitious undertaking to date, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's difficult, but rewarding novel Jude the Obscure. Renamed "Jude" (1996), the director's adaptation suggested his ongoing debts to Bergman and Francois Truffaut, as he told the tale of an unconventional young man (Christopher Eccleston) who develops a romantic relationship with his beautiful likeminded cousin (Kate Winslet). Handsomely shot and produced, "Jude" was generally well-received by critics and audiences despite the challenges of its length, austerity and mixed ambitions. Winterbottom challenged himself with his next project, a present-day historical study of potent emotional bonds formed between two war correspondents (Stephen Dillane and Woody Harrelson) and an American aid worker (Marisa Tomei) in his brutally realistic war drama "Welcome to Sarajevo" (1997). Debuting in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, the film received praise for its restrained, yet disturbing examination of the effects of the armed conflict in Yugoslavia and with war in general. For his next film, Winterbottom plumed the depths of voyeurism with "I Want You" (1998), a neo-noir thriller about a hairdresser (Rachel Weisz) at a dilapidated English resort who is threatened by a jealous, eavesdropping bicyclist (Luka Petrusic) with embarrassing audio recordings.
Winterbottom kept critics and audiences off-balance by helming the downbeat family drama, "Wonderland" (2000), which depicted a couple (Kika Markham and Jack Shepherd) trapped in a loveless marriage trying to maintain strained relations with their three grown children (Shirley Henderson, Gina McKee and Molly Parker). He followed up with the bleak revisionist Western, "The Claim" (2000), which depicted a wealthy businessman in 1967, who basically owns an entire town, but who is reminded of his dark past when a beautiful, but dying woman (Nastassja Kinski) and her daughter (Sarah Polley) arrive in town. Winterbottom next delved into the popular music that made up the Manchester sound in the late 1970s and 1980s with "24 Hour Party People" (2002), which followed the career of record company owner, nightclub manager and all-around impresario, Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), and featured a healthy dose of music, sex, drugs and cameo appearances from the era's main players. Winterbottom displayed even more diversity with "In This World" (2003), a gritty political drama about an orphaned teen (Jamal Udin Torabi) and his older companion (Enayatullah), who take a precarious journey from Pakistan to London through the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Collaborating again with writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, Winterbottom directed the not-too-futuristic sci-fi yarn, "Code 46" (2003), which depicted a bleak future where people are severely restricted from traveling to and from different countries. He next shot "9 Songs" (2005), which followed the passionate love affair between a young couple (Kieran O'Brien and Margo Stilley) over the course of 12 months. Not a typical romantic drama by any stretch, "9 Songs" was highly controversial in Britain due to its graphic depiction of unsimulated sexual intercourse between the two leads. Winterbottom reunited with Steve Coogan for "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story" (2006), a satirical comedy about an arrogant actor (Coogan) who runs afoul of just about everybody while starring in a supposedly unfilmable adaptation of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Turning back to more realistic fare, he directed "The Road to Guantanamo" (2006), a docudrama that used news footage and reenactments to depict the two-year imprisonment of three British citizens in the notorious Cuban prison.
In directing his third film directly related to the war on terrorism, Winterbottom cast Angelina Jolie to play the wife of beheaded journalist, Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman), in "A Mighty Heart" (2007). Without incorporating maudlin sentiment or melodrama, Winterbottom led Jolie to deliver a career performance as a strong, determined woman seeking justice for her husband's murder. He next directed the tough family drama, "Geneva" (2008), which starred Colin Firth as a widower who moves to Italy with his two daughters (Willa Holland and Perla Haney-Jardine) following the sudden death of his wife. Turning to a full-on documentary, Winterbottom co-directed "The Shock Doctrine" with Mat Whitecross, which used nonfiction writer Naomi Klein's novel of the same name to depict the rise of disaster capitalism, where global corporations exploit the tragedies of war and natural disasters for profit. He followed with the noir crime thriller, "The Killer Inside Me" (2010), which focused on a stoic small-town sheriff (Casey Affleck) moonlighting as a serial killer.
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Director (TV Mini-Series)
Directed the opening TV-movie installment of British crime drama series, "Cracker," entitled "Cracker: The Mad Woman in the Attic"
Helmed the underrated adaptation of "Jude", starring Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet
Directed the fact-based "Welcome to Sarajevo", an ironically titled film about a British journalist who develops a bond with a Bosnian child
Helmed "The Claim", an adaptation of "The Mayor of Casterbridge," set in 1860s California
Directed "24 Hour Party People", a drama about the British electronica musical group New Order
Helmed "Going Mad in Hollywood," a drama about filmmaker Lindsay Anderson's friendship with writer David Sherwin
Directed Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton in futuristic love story "Code 46"
Helmed the controversal film "The Road to Guantanamo," the true story of three friends who set off from Britain for a wedding overseas and ended up as terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay
Directed "The Killer Inside Me," starring Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, and Jessica Alba
Released the drama "Everyday," shot over a five year period
Reunited with Coogan for biodrama "The Look of Love"
Directed crime drama "The Face of an Angel," starring Kate Beckinsale